Sure, you can put makeup on with your fingers, with the little sponge brushes that come in an eyeshadow kit, even with a Q-tip or a cotton ball. But, you have way less control over what you’re doing and can end up with a big old mess! Having a handful of quality brushes is key to any beauty regimen. The right tools will help you take your makeup skills to the next level in an instant.

These nine brushes are all you need to do any makeup tutorial you see on our site. I’ve selected the nine that I use the most, and they are all available to purchase individually. Of course, if you’re not ready to go more pro, you can also go for a less expensive kit that has it all, like the Shany Cosmetic Natural Brush Kit ($12) or this Mash Studio Pro Kit with Case ($27). The difference between inexpensive sets versus more expensive individual brushes is endurance. After a few washes, inexpensive brushes tend to fall apart and shed (eek!). Quality brushes, however, can last for years as long as you care for them properly.

Now, onto those brushes!

1. MAC 190 ($34): This is your basic foundation brush. You can use this for foundation and also as a highlighting brush. With this brush you can create an even, flawless finish without overusing product.

2. Paula Dorf Total Camouflage ($25): In terms of basics, this is your concealer brush. What does that mean? You can cover up smaller troublesome areas such as blemishes, redness around your nose or the discoloration underneath your eyes.

3. MAC 138 ($53): This tapered brush is perfect for contouring with bronzer. The soft bristles and pointed angle make application and blending so much easier.

4. Paula Dorf Cheek ($45): This is one of my favorite blush brushes. The angled brush helps make the placement of product on your cheeks a lot more straightforward. It’s the best brush to brighten your cheeks without that phony hue.

5. Paula Dorf Fan ($25): Use this brush for your powder application. It is light weight and thin so dusting on powder in your T-Zone will look natural and not cakey. Heavier brushes can tend to smudge your makeup or leave a heavy residue.

6. MAC 217 ($24): I like to refer to this as your fluffy eyeshadow brush. The texture and size of this brush is perfect for blending shadow into the crease of your eyes or across your eyelids.

7. MAC 249 ($22): Now you can call this the other half of your fluffy brush — its partner in crime, the flat eyeshadow brush. I love this brush because it is flat and compact making it easy to apply a light to heavy coverage by tapping product onto your eyelids, inner corners of your eyes or on your brow bone.

8. MAC 266 ($20): This is a small angled brush with a slight firmness. This makes creating sharp, precise lines easy as pie. You can also use the flat angled side to add shadow to liner and get a more smudgy look as well.

9. MAC 211 ($20): This is marketed by MAC as a pointed liner brush, however I find it is the prefect texture and shape for applying lipstick and gloss perfectly. Because it is a synthetic fiber brush, cleaning off the lipstick is much easier.

And onto cleaning care! You should really clean your brushes every other week or so. You can use a gentle hand soap, or even your favorite shampoo to do this.

1. Put some soap into a small bowl.

2. Dab the brush into the soap lightly.

3. Get the brush wet and use your hand to swirl the brush around until you get all of the makeup out of the brush.

4. Gently squeeze out the remaining water.

5. Lay flat overnight to dry.

Important note! Do not hold or leave the brush standing upright when wet. Water will leak into the brush and cause it to corrode and, ultimately, break.

Once your brushes are dry, you can store them in a mason jar for easy access, or roll ’em up in a brush organizer.

And there you have it. You can now consider yourself schooled in Brushes 101 ;)

What other beauty basics would you like to see here on Talk to us in the comments below.